Construction Robotics is changing the way construction is done. It has always been inevitable that robotics technology would enter into dangerous industries to increase safety and productivity, but many people still view it as a futuristic phenomenon. Grit Daily caught up with Scott Peters, President and co-founder of Construction Robotics to talk about SAM and MULE, their construction assistive devices that have already changed expectations within the industry.
Their Semi-Automated Mason (SAM), a brick-laying machine, is the first piece of robotic equipment used on commercial job sites to be operated by masons. MULE, short for Material Unit Life Enhancer, can make blocks weighing up to 150 pounds feel weightless. Both pieces of technology can work off of scaffold, require some training and were created with the end users in mind.
Construction Robotics created the mapping software for SAM from scratch. “We had to make it very easy to use, very intuitive,” because many masons had been working off of paper. The software allows a mason to create a wall in a matter of minutes by simply inputting the dimensions, where windows will be placed, etc. Training for SAM takes about 3 days, while MULE can be learned in a matter of minutes. Peters explains, “We have a robust implementation process because that’s one of the keys to success, and a big part of implementation may be thinking about your job differently.”
When asked about pushback from the construction workers themselves, Peters explained that there was some fear among workers that a Terminator-like robot would walk off the truck and make their skills obsolete. On the contrary, Peters believes that these types of technologies can diversify the industry by allowing more women to participate and “take the back-breaking work out of construction.”
The lift-enhancing MULE is already starting to change the industry by creating demand for double-sized blocks. A typical concrete block is 8x8x16 and weighs around 35 pounds, but because MULE can make up to 150 pounds feel weightless, Construction Robotics worked with block manufacturers to create a 16x16x32 size block, weighing around 75 pounds, so that double the square footage can be covered with every motion on the wall. This is Construction Robotics’ focus – enhancing productivity on construction sites and getting materials manufacturers to think differently about how materials can be placed on job sites because of smart lifting technology.
Peters understands that the industry is slow to change, but he wants Construction Robotics to be at the forefront of that change by continuing to innovate around the future of lifting. By increasing productivity and decreasing workplace accidents, a construction company’s insurance costs may even go down. It will take time to collect the data to show trends over time, but once the safety benefits are well documented, such costs will decrease. Smart lifting and masonry technologies may even make it easier to add colorful aesthetics to a building because, for no extra cost, the software can be programmed to coordinate colors into a pattern or logo. Using SAM’s software, the company has already essentially 3-D printed a logo into a building in brick.
At ConExpo, Construction Robotics announced a partnership with JLG, a manufacturer of lift equipment that can access to hard-to-reach places. Frank Nerenhausen, President of JLG, says of the partnership, “JLG and Construction Robotics are taking the strengths of each individual company to collaborate on progressive robotic solutions that will advance safety and productivity on tomorrow’s job sites.”
The future is here. While many people view robots as anthropomorphized pieces of machinery, they come in many forms we already use today. Construction workers can become neo-Luddites and push back against such inevitable technologies, or they can learn how to use these devices efficiently to prevent injury and as another technical skill to be added to their resumes.